Iconic Porsche interviews: Vic Elford
Vic Elford was possibly one of the most versatile racing drivers of the 1960s, racing and rallying his way around the world in a myriad of cars.
In a career that saw him drive Fords, Ferraris and Formula One cars, Elford is perhaps best remembered for his heroics at the wheel of machinery from Zuffenhausen.
Total 911 had the pleasure of talking to ‘Quick Vic’ for issue 94.
What was your first Porsche experience?
Well, 1966 was a total disaster at Ford. I sought out and had lunch with Huschke von Hanstein in Cannes, where he told me that Porsche had no plans to go rallying, but after an impassioned sales plea he agreed to lend me a car for Corsica. No practice car and no money; just one car, a couple of mechanics and some spare wheels and tyres! I spent the entire rally learning to drive a 911 – I was probably the first driver to analyse what it was and coax the best out of it – and finished third. Stuttgart was over the moon, as they had never thought of the 911 as being a potential winner.
At first, did you prefer rallying to circuit racing?
I always wanted to race, but getting into the co-driver’s seat firstly and then the driver’s one was easier and cheaper in rallying. Once I got there I wanted to win! However, once I had experience of both I liked them equally.
What led to you driving the Aldingtons’ 911 in the (first televised) Rallycross at Lydden Hill?
I had just finished third on the Monte after leading almost all the way and getting caught with the wrong tyres when it unexpectedly snowed. Suddenly, here was an almost unknown car – the 911 – and an equally almost unknown Brit driver dusting up everyone, so ITV insisted I must do the Lydden Rallycross. The Aldingtons didn’t have a car, nor did Stuttgart, so the only one available was the Aldingtons’ showroom demonstrator!
How did you exploit the 911’s handling to your advantage, and did it come naturally to you?
I was simply the first driver with the ability to figure out what a 911 wanted to do. It wasn’t an oversteering monster like everyone insisted, but a gentle, understeering car that needed tender loving care. It had to be seduced into doing the right thing – not forced, which was what most drivers tried to do 45 years ago.
The 917 must have been a quantum leap from the 908, given the engine capacity, size and so on. At first some drivers were reluctant to drive it due to its wayward reputation, but you mastered it quickly – what did you like about it?
Everything! It was big, fast and intimidating to other drivers. The first one was difficult, but like the early 911s it needed a persuasive hand, not a bully club.
What was the relationship like between the factory’s ‘Salzburg’ (Martini) team and the ‘official’ JW Automotive squad?
What relationship? We just didn’t like each other. John [Wyer] thought he would be the one and only works team, and would have the say-so on using – or not – anything new that came along. Obviously, that was without knowing the strength of character of Piëch, which was great for me, as any time something new came along, if Wyer said ‘no’, Piëch’s answer was simply, ‘OK, then Elford gets it’! Like the first 5.0-litre engine at Monza: we all practiced with it, Wyer chose not to use it in the race, so I got it and simply drove away into the distance!
Do you have a favourite Porsche?
For racing, the 917. Which one? All of them! For road, the original short-wheel base 911 before all the electronic razzmatazz, when the driver decided what the car did or did not do.
To read more of this feature, including Vic’s stories from the Monte Carlo Rally, Targa Florio, and piloting the awesome 917 ‘lang heck’, pick up a copy of issue 94 from the Imagine Shop.
Also, look out for the race return of the Aldington’s Porsche 911 online next week, and the Targa Florio feature in the upcoming edition of Total 911, out on September 11th.